Country Music…in Africa

By Gavin Sword, KF9 Rwanda

The music of Africa conjures images of native dancers and handmade instruments – the drums, rhythms and dancing are mythical. Knowing I was coming to Africa, I was so looking forward to hearing the native music of Rwanda.  Music is one of the purest ways I know to experience and appreciate new cultures and connect with people.

During my time here, I have had a few occasions of hearing the native music of Rwanda and it was wonderful.  A church service and wedding ceremony I attended with traditional dance and songs were particularly memorable.  However, at my MFI, the radio plays pretty much all day long on the computer of my officemate and the thing is, it’s not African music at all.  This gentleman has a penchant for country music – and the truth is his brand of music has really gotten me hooked.

Country is a musical genre heretofore overlooked by this Kiva Fellow, but over the past two months I have learned the lyrics of more country hits than you can imagine.  A few toe-tappers come to mind and I am going to try to relate them to microfinance because I have listened to these songs every single day I’ve been here and I’ve had time to make some connections, however tenuous.

The Rhinestone Cowboy, by Glen Campbell is a song about a down-on-his-luck fellow who dreams of bigger things in life,

“There’s been a load of compromisin’ on the road to my horizon…but I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me…Like a Rhinestone Cowbow….getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know.  Well I really don’t mind the rain, and the smile can hide all the pain, but you’re down when you’re ridin’ the train that’s takin’ the long way…and I dream of the things I’ll do -with a subway token and a dollar tucked in my shoe…”

Those are some great lyrics!  Don’t we all dream of bigger things?  Many of the borrowers I have met share that same pluck and ambition – maybe not for the bright lights and hit records, but they have their own big dreams and are working so hard to reach them.  Not exactly like the Rhinestone Cowboy, but there are some rich metaphorical similarities to be gleaned, no doubt about it.

And who can forget Dolly Parton’s stirring rendition of  “9 to 5” – is there a more apt song about the life of a frustrated working man/woman in any land with hopes of a better future?  As Dolly laments,

“You’re in the same boat with a lot of your friends, waitin’ for the day your ship’ll come in and the tide’s gonna turn and it’s all gonna go your way…”

Hats off to our Kiva borrowers because they work for themselves, not having to deal with bosses that ‘just use your mind and never give you credit…and let you dream just to watch them shatter – just a step on the boss man’s ladder…”  Hooray for entrepreneurship and working for one’s self!

Finally, Ronny Milsap’s “I Wouldn’t Have Missed it for the World”… This brings to mind my own experience of being here as a Kiva Fellow in Rwanda;

“Our paths may never cross again…I’m glad for all the good times…cause you brought me so much sunshine…I wouldn’t have missed it for the world…I wouldn’t trade one memory…cause you mean that much to me…I wouldn’t have missed it for the world”
That Ronny Milsap really has a way with words.  My time here has changed my life for sure.  I have learned something of microfinance and what it can and can’t do.  I appreciate the complexities and nuances and appreciate more just how much I don’t know.  It has been an eye opening experience and one that “I wouldn’t have missed for the world…” .  And, I know when I go home, my I-Tunes collection will be permanently changed.  I will wistfully listen to country music and think of …Africa.


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